clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 5 most pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods in San Francisco

Not all neighborhoods are equal when foot hits pavement

A street in San Francisco. There are shops and restaurants and strings of red festive lights that hang over the street. People are crossing the street and walking along the sidewalks.
Photo by Patricia Chang

Robot cars, scooters, and electric trains are well and good, but at the heart of it—or perhaps the sole of it—the basic principle of transit is putting one foot in front of the other.

And walkability is also a basic driver of home values in modern cities. As CityLab pointed out, “You’ll pay a lot more to live in a downtown apartment, above a grocery store, next to a bar strip and within walking distance of your work.”

In 2007 the Seattle-based pedestrian analysis company Walk Score (now owned by real estate aggregate site Redfin) started ranking Northern American neighborhoods by sheer power of pedestrian allure.

According to Redfin, a Walk Score of at least 90 means that the average resident can get most everyday errands done on foot thanks to relatively dense and easily accessible clusters of nearby amenities.

A score of 24 or lower means residents have to use a car for almost every little thing. The site also ranks neighborhoods by bike and transit access.

Walk Score ranks San Francisco as one of the most walkable cities in America; however, not all neighborhoods are equal when foot hits pavement. Here are the local locales that will have pedestrians walking on easy street:

1. Chinatown

Chinatown’s motivated showing here should be no surprise, although it’s worth noting that it bucks the general trend of walkability equating to generally more expensive housing stock, albeit on account of obvious special circumstances.

Nearby transit lines of note include the 30-Stockton and 45-Union, and the upcoming Central Subway.

  • Walk score: 100
  • Transit score: 100
  • Bike score: 70

2. The Tenderloin

Although walkability can be a great equalizer between seemingly unalike neighborhoods, it’s almost certainly not a coincidence that most of these neighborhoods border on at least one of the others.

Perhaps the biggest draw to the TL is its close proximity to Market Street, the city’s main artery, as well as Muni and BART.

  • Walk score: 100
  • Transit score: 100
  • Bike score: 91

3. Downtown/Union Square

Again, little surprise on this front: If a downtown area isn’t easily accessible by pedestrians, it’s reasonable to wonder how it even qualifies as a downtown at all. And while not many people live in Union Square, there are a good amount of residents in the surrounding area.

Transit lines include the 38-Geary, 30-Stockton, 45-Union, 3-Jackson, 2-Clement, 1-California, the Powell BART/Muni station, and—of course—the historic cable cars.

  • Walk score: 99
  • Transit score: 100
  • Bike score: 79

4. North Beach

Of course, there is one catch when it comes to Walk Scores: They don’t necessarily indicate the ease of walking. It may be that North Beach offers shorter trips to common destinations than, say, SoMa (which has a 97 Walk Score itself), but depending on how well you handle hills, it may take a bit longer to get there anyway.

  • Walk score: 99
  • Transit score: 95
  • Bike score: 75

5. Polk Gulch

Nudging long reigning No. 5 Lower Nob Hill out of contention, Polk Gulch makes its way into the top slots, rounding out this list. While some will debate the literal existence of this neighborhood, Polk Gulch is the area in and around Polk Street running through the Nob Hill and Russian Hill neighborhoods from Geary Street to Union Street

  • Walk score: 99
  • Transit score: 95
  • Bike score: 78

No other neighborhood breaks the 99 threshold right now, but very few neighborhoods have a poor showing. Out of 110 ranked locales, 46 have a score of 90 or better, and 70 have a score of 80 or better.

The worst Walk Score in the entire city: Treasure Island, with a score of 35, but with recent developments, expect that sad number to rise in the future.